The labour market has changed dynamically

Centra a.s. provides comprehensive services in property management – from cleaning through greenery maintenance, transport and real estate services to engineering and investment activities and facility management.

We asked the Operations Director of Centra a.s., Ing. Jan Fichtner, Ph.D., what the year 2020 was like.

How do you assess this rather atypical year from Centra’s point of view?

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly hit the operation of our company. With regards to the portfolio of services we provide, the impacts of the pandemics can be divided into two groups by fields of activities. The first big group covers the area of administration. We had to take on new measures and change the management system for administrative staff in order to ensure the continuity of the company’s operation. We have implemented preventive protective measures for our employees, equipped them with disinfectant material and protective aids. At the same time, we divided the teams and introduced home office where possible. Online teleconferences, document sharing, established electronic systems and other measures confirmed to us, during the pandemic, that we are able to provide our clients with services even in such a state of emergency. The second group is the area of ‘production’, that is the direct manual output. If there were no workers’ professions, then administration would be useless. We very much appreciate the cleaning staff, security guards, gardeners, drivers, electricians, etc., who could not ‘hide away’ in a home office during the pandemic and continued coming to work in times of increased emergency and desolate streets, thus not only supporting our company but contributing to the operation of municipal services.

You provide various services specializing mainly in facility management and real estate activities. Which field is doing best?

In general, the best performing fields are those that benefit from the current boom in construction production. That means divisions that provide design activities, investor construction supervision and related services, such as the principle element of our company – facility management. In this regard, we try to fully meet our customers’ requirements and the market and constantly improve the quality of services provided. We know that we still have shortcomings in some respects, but we are constantly working to eliminate them and provide our clients with maximum possible care.

Which fields were mostly influenced by the Covid pandemic and in which way?

We have noted a positive impact on the volume of provided services in the areas of hygiene, cleaning and disinfection. These are the services our clients order and we are able to respond to their requirements swiftly and at the same time to guarantee reasonable and competitive pricing. During the pandemic we have introduced, and currently dispose with, several kinds of new technologies in the area of disinfection and continue developing them. We believe that thoroughness and dutifulness represent the right way in the fight against negative economic impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has as well as the way to achieve the best results of co-operation between the client and provider of the services.

How did you have to change the cleaning regulations in the buildings you manage due to stricter hygienic and anti-epidemic measures?

As a result of anti-epidemic measures, our services are more demanding, both when performing cleaning and when it comes to using protective work aids. In some medical facilities, we perform cleaning directly in areas with patients with COVID-19, where we must follow strict and well-defined procedures in order to protect cleaning workers’ health. The frequency of cleaning, including the application of disinfection plans, has also increased significantly at individual workplaces. We offer clients a new service – disinfection of premises based on nanopolymer technology using the so-called foggers. We are also thinking about cleaning robotics. In the near future, we would like to implement this solution for fully autonomous cleaning of common areas, for example in Na Homolce Hospital.

There is a lot of talk today about redundancies in some sectors – and conversely about labour shortages in other sectors. What is your experience?

The mentioned situation corresponds with the nationwide situation. The labour market has changed dynamically vigorously in connection with the coronavirus crises. Some 34% of companies confirm the deep and serious impact of the crises. Surveys and analyses by recruitment agencies show a major impact on working conditions for more than 37% of people. On the other hand, 23% of large companies expect an increase in recruitment. There are two extremes. There is still a huge shortage of candidates for the positions of drivers, storemen, welders, electricians, locksmiths and masons. But hundreds of CVs come, for instance, for one advertisement for assistant administrative positions. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of laid off chefs, waiters, maids or saleswomen lack the essential – the capacity for new work. Companies are naturally interested in professionals. Unemployment is still kept low artificially by government allowances to employers within the Antivirus programme. Experts predict a more dynamic increase in the number of unemployed in the coming year, which will bring further changes in the labour market. And we can confirm the same experience in the field of recruitment. There are more people in the labour market, which is seemingly better for employers, but the quality does not always meet our requirements. Compared to the situation half a year ago, the interest in work is much greater. The current situation is much more difficult for recruiters with regards to selecting the candidates. On the one hand, a large number of candidates respond to any position offered. On the other hand, the relevance of the responses sent is debatable. We note that job seekers respond to all the positions we offer, whether it is an administrative, managerial or blue-collar position. As a humorous fact I can mention lorry driver’s, pilot’s, film director’s and cook’s respond to a management position. Despite the increased difficulty in selecting candidates, it is positive that we have a greater choice of job seekers than before the crisis. It also brought a certain settlement in the areas of wage and benefit requirements. Previously, applicants had exaggerated requirements. Now, job seekers are more aware that it is important not to focus only on benefits, but especially to work in a stable and financially sound company.

It is, of course, difficult to plan with the unclear development of the epidemic situation. Do you propose to set any goals for next year?

We face the challenges of modern times, such as electronic services, automatic document processing, software and mobile applications, communication and direct connection of customer requirements with our systems or archiving and easy online availability of all documents. And, of course, to expand the number of satisfied clients.

PR / photo: centra, a.s.

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